09 October 2006

1102) U.S. Congress and Contingent Influence of Diaspora Lobbies: Lessons from U.S. Policy Toward Armenia and Azerbaijan

David King and Miles Pomper
Introduction

U.S. foreign policy can be viewed through the lens of local U.S. politics, even if that lens occasionally distorts a more de-tached and “realist” analysis. The group-based perspectives of Smith (2000) and Shain (1999) describe instances of diaspora lobbies influencing policies that have seemed inconsistent with U.S. national interests. Scholars have wondered whether, in an increasingly multicultural nation, U.S. foreign policy will reflect consistent national interests or become intermittently captured by ethnic groupings in the United States (Ruggie 1997; Shain 1994; Clough 1994). . .

Consider congressional policymaking concerning Armenia, Azerbaijan and the disputed enclave Nagorno-Karabakh since the mid-1990s. With congressional reactions to the Armenian and Azeri lobbies, we highlight factors that prove critical to the political influence of diaspora groups in the United States. Oth-ers have highlighted the political power (or lack of power) of sev-eral diaspora groups, including citizens with loyalties to Mexico, Cuba, Israel, and Greece (Haney & Vanderbush 1999; Kilson 1992; Arthur 1991; Scourby 1984). The lessons found in the Armenian and Azeri cases extend beyond the Caspian Sea, re-vealing the contingent nature of diaspora influences in Congress and on U.S. foreign policy.

Introduction
U.S. foreign policy can be viewed through the lens of local U.S. politics, even if that lens occasionally distorts a more de-tached and “realist” analysis. The group-based perspectives of Smith (2000) and Shain (1999) describe instances of diaspora lobbies influencing policies that have seemed inconsistent with U.S. national interests. Scholars have wondered whether, in an increasingly multicultural nation, U.S. foreign policy will reflect consistent national interests or become intermittently captured by ethnic groupings in the United States (Ruggie 1997; Shain 1994; Clough 1994).

Consider congressional policymaking concerning Armenia, Azerbaijan and the disputed enclave Nagorno-Karabakh since the mid-1990s. With congressional reactions to the Armenian and Azeri lobbies, we highlight factors that prove critical to the political influence of diaspora groups in the United States. Oth-ers have highlighted the political power (or lack of power) of sev-eral diaspora groups, including citizens with loyalties to Mexico, Cuba, Israel, and Greece (Haney & Vanderbush 1999; Kilson 1992; Arthur 1991; Scourby 1984). The lessons found in the Armenian and Azeri cases extend beyond the Caspian Sea, re-vealing the contingent nature of diaspora influences in Congress and on U.S. foreign policy.

Can a nation of immigrants have a unified foreign policy? Pluralists have worried that immigrant communities may view themselves as alien participants in the American democratic process with allegiances maintained abroad (Smith 2000; Teles 1998). This is an old concern that recurs with each new wave of immigrants (DeConde 1992). Recalling the U.S. Civil Rights movement, observers noted the role that ethnic interest groups play in domestic politics (Schneider 1979). However, few be-lieved such a tendency existed in American foreign politics, es-pecially when the U.S. national interest seemed fairly easy to di-vine during the Cold War (Kissinger 2001).
With the end of the Cold War, pluralists purported in-creasing influence of diaspora interest groups. The breakup of the Soviet Union overturned the U.S. role in the international system and also created fledgling states whose relationship to the U.S. was historically groundless (Alterman 1997). While some research has been done on the effects of diasporas, the growing number of states, combined with trends toward global-ization, should awaken interest in how local diaspora communi-ties can influence U.S. foreign policy.

We argue that the Armenian lobby has been influential with respect to U.S. foreign policy toward Azerbaijan, and we show how their strength as a lobby has manifested itself on Capitol Hill. We detail why the Armenian diaspora lobby main-tained a successful record on most of their important issues, and we conclude with a discussion of the conditions under which the Armenian lobby lost influence over U.S. foreign policy toward Azerbaijan. While our focus remains on the Armenian community, our goal is to identify elements of the link between local politics and U.S. foreign policy that may generalize to other communities (Haney & Vanderbush 1999).

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